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President’s Page: Ending Human Rights Abuses Committed in the Name of ‘Family Planning’

Inserted in this edition of the PRI Review is a pamphlet called Know Your Rights: Women, Family Planning and US Law. The US law referenced is known as the Tiahrt Amendment, which is intended to protect women and families against human rights abuses committed in population control programs.

Since the 1960’s, the United States has been giving money to countries and organizations that run “voluntary family planning” programs around the world. But what constitutes a “voluntary” program has never been defined — until the Tiahrt Amendment became law. The Tiahrt Amendment, named after its chief sponsor, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), mandates the following:

  • Family planning programs must not rely on targets or quotas. PRI has documented that women in India have been sterilized in assembly-line fashion to meet targets and quotas established by the government (Know Your Rights, 5).

  • Family planning programs must not bribe women to participate. It is illegal for family planning programs to offer money, food, clothing, household goods, medical care, or other benefits in exchange for using contraception or agreeing to be sterilized. It is also illegal for family planning workers themselves to be offered bribes for meeting targets or quotas. PRI has documented how medical staff at the sterilization clinics in India collected rewards, prizes and bonuses after bringing a set number of women to the clinic for sterilization (Know Your Rights, 4–5).

  • Family planning programs must not make contraception, abortion or sterilization a condition of participating in some other government program. PRI has documented that women in Peru were cut off from government food programs for refusing tubal ligation (Know Your Rights, 6–7).

  • Family planning programs must not use experimental methods of contraception, sterilization, and abortion on a woman without her knowledge (Know Your Rights, 11–12).

  • Family planning programs must be based on informed consent, with women told honestly and accurately by family planning workers about the possible risks of methods of contraception or sterilization. (Know Your Rights, 8–10). PRI is concerned that Multiload 735 IUDs are being inserted in Kosovar refugee women without information on side effects or removal procedures. There are serious health threats if this IUD is left in after the prescribed duration, including scarring of the uterus, ectopic pregnancy and fetal infection (PRI Review, April / May 1999, 13).

All over the world and for many years family planning programs have pressured, forced, coerced, commanded and shamed women into abortions, sterilizations, and contraception they did not want. All of the above practices are violations of the Tiahrt Amendment, and must stop. Know Your Rights is designed to help end these abuses by spelling out the new law, giving examples of abuses, and outlining what to do when abuses are discovered.

If enough women come forward to tell their stories, we can put an end to such abusive programs. If you or someone you know has had their rights violated, please contact PRI. If, in fact, we determine that a violation of your rights has occurred, we will forward your documentation to the USAID. Under the law, the USAID has 60 days to correct any abuses in its programs.

We ask for our readers’ support in helping us get Know Your Rights out to a broader public. If you would like additional copies for local distribution, please contact us at:

P.O. Box 1559

Front Royal, Virginia 22630 USA

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (540) 622-5240

Fax: (540) 622-2728

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